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Monday, December 9

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Album Sun Jan 21 2007

Wincing the Night Away

The title of the new Shins album, Wincing the Night Away (Sub Pop Records)—to release on January 23, 2007—is a reference to lead singer James Mercer's "crippling insomnia." Nothing could better describe who the Shins are in 2007. They’ve spent two years struggling over this album—supposedly Mercer's insomnia stems from his drive for perfection and insecurity, which keeps him up late at night, agonizing over his work.


Wincing the Night Away doesn’t differ too much from the Portland-based indie pop band’s previous two albums—Oh, Inverted World (2001) and Chutes Too Narrow (2003). There's the particular brand of jangly pop, mashed up with the Beach Boy harmonies, and Mercer's all-pervasive, Brian Wilson voice. Still, this album is a darker, more somber affair. Take the song, "Sleeping Less," which starts out, surprisingly, with ambient tones, then flows into catchy, familiar Shins style pop. The lyrics describe the agony of sleeplessness—Go without / until the need seeps in.

Depression is nothing new for the Shins. In fact this is what has fueled the band’s music since they started playing together in Albuquerque in 1996. Mercer has said that moving from Germany to New Mexico at the age of twelve, and being thrust into the world of American teenage culture—where kids were having sex and doing drugs—made him feel like an outsider.

Songs like “Black Wave,” “Split Needles” and “Phantom Limb” play into the melancholic theme of the album. Yet, there are some free-spirited pop songs – “Australia,” “Sea Legs”—particularly impressive for its intricate and jubilant compilation—and the whimsical “Red Rabbit.” You can’t always decipher the lyrics too well, yet I felt the same way about “New Slang,” (popularized, largely, via the indie flick, Garden State) and I like the song immensely.

The overabundant fanfare surrounding the release of the new Shins album is telling of the band’s ever-increasing flirtation with the mainstream. On January 13, 2007, the Shins appeared on Saturday Night Live with Jake Gyllenhaal. On Tuesday, January 23, the day of the album’s release, they’ll make an appearance on “Late Night with Dave Letterman.”

On a smaller scale, Chicago-based Reckless Records is hosting a Shins CD Release Ping-Pong Party, on Monday, January 22 (9pm), at the Hideout. The Shins roll into Chicago on February 10, to perform at the Congress Theater ($25).

For their next album, the Shins will have another struggle besides insomnia to talk about—that thing called fame.

 
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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

Our Final Transmission Days

By The Gapers Block Transmission Staff

Transmission staffers share their most cherished memories and moments while writing for Gapers Block.

Read this feature »

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